A grand but heavy-handed psychological thriller that dragged on awkwardly in moments that could, and should, have been cut or reworked. Once again, we find Leonardo DiCaprio struggling with himself and the dead wife in his head for supreme control of his not-so-normal-ever-again life. Yes, yes, I know that this movie came before Inception, but Inception held me in a way that Shutter Island did not. I kind of knew it before I saw this film, but I watched it anyway because I wondered what all those crazy scenes of burning houses and women turning into ash in DiCaprio's arms were all about. I wasn't disappointed with the outcome, but it did not completely send me, either: I've seen enough films where the good guy is actually the bad guy, etc etc. Memento, Secret Window, the list goes on...
I still can't deny that I did like twisting my brain around to evaluate the scenes that had already taken place in the movie as the truth of Teddy Daniels' situation is finally revealed. I liked going back to previous weirdness and thinking to myself, ohhhh now it makes sense. All those scenes with Teddy's sidekick, with "something is off here" undertones that were not enough to trigger my suspicion, there you go.
I still doubted, however, that a whole medical facility would turn itself on its head just for the sake of potentially curing one man of his troubled memories. Perhaps it was a very grand experiment of some sort, with larger ramifications. Perhaps Dr. John Cawley cared about him that much (if so, kudos to him) and wanted Teddy to finally leave the institution that badly. Perhaps the doctor was just that curious as to what would happen if a person's complete universe could be tweaked. I'll go with one of those and leave it alone. Part of me did want to believe the weird conspiracy theories that the supposed escaped prisoner hiding in the cave explained to Teddy. Thankfully, they were not true - and the world was not out to get Teddy as he would have liked to believe.
I do give this movie credit for the same heavy-handedness that eventually becomes its downfall. Shutter Island's atmosphere is so saturated with morose dread and gloom that it weighed upon me as I watched. The cracking and swerving music effect in the doctor's office - as Teddy's brain is probably cracking right along with it - was disturbing in a way that few movies could have ever executed before or since.
In the end, this movie is really about a crazy man and his crazy wife Dolores, brilliantly played by Michelle Williams. I cannot comprehend how nuts one must be to drown one's own children and then play with them as if they were life-size dolls. It is understandable that perhaps Teddy was already predisposed to some kind of madness (or determination to believe something) and that this just did him in. He resolves to still pretend to be insane in order to be lobotomized and forget all his cares, after all. This is a dark movie, in case you did not get my drift before. This is for those of you out there who like to submerge yourself in absolute gloom for a couple of hours and then happily shake it off when it's over, leaving some small piece of it in your head to mull over and over. I would not watch this again, but seeing how I remember it enough to be writing about it now (my reviews have been late in coming), it did something right.